DEARBORN — OK Arab Americans, get your hankies ready. After centuries of cultural isolation, decades of political ostracization and six years of post-9/11 social hysteria, our real story is about to be told. And when you watch Visionalist Entertainment Productions’ documentary, “Our Arab American Story,” the tears are gonna flow. There will be tears of sorrow as you watch community members and friends talk about leaving their homeland and their relatives for a new life in America. There will be tears of pride as Arab American contributions to the country and the state of Michigan are heralded. There will be tears of affirmation as the culture, society, religion, music, art, cuisine and entrepreneurship of Arab Americans are detailed. There will be tears of joy as you slowly realize that someone has finally taken notice that this community should be prized. And there will be tears of relief that maybe, just maybe, the trials and tribulations of being Arab in America may be over.
The “Our Story Of” series is dedicated to the goal of enriching Metro Detroit by fostering a greater understanding of the individual ethnic communities that define everyone residing in the area. Dubbed “the ultimate Detroit documentary series,” the first installment, “Our Italian Story,” aired on WXYZ-TV 7 in December 2006 and garnered Visionalist Entertainment Productions three Michigan Emmy awards. The second installment in the series, “Our Polish Story,” aired in June 2007. Visionalist Entertainment Productions is currently releasing a third documentary “Our Greek Story,” that will air commercial free on WXYZ-TV Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. “Our Arab American Story” is set to air commercial free on WXYZ-TV 7 on Sunday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. The brainchild of Detroiter Keith Famie, of Adventure Chef and “Survivor” fame, the documentary features an in-depth, sometimes emotional look at religion and the complexities of being an Arab American through the eyes of several local business owners and community leaders who have made an impact throughout Metro Detroit — the largest of all Arab communities outside the Middle East. The “Our Story Of” documentary series is co-produced and sponsored by Toni Wisne Sabina and Steve Sabina, owners of the Epoch Restaurant Group, CEO of Guardian Industries Russell Ebeid and writer Chris Kassel.
“‘Our Arab American Story’ is very special. I am honored that we can tell this compelling story and share it with so many,” said Famie. “My film crew and I were extremely humbled by the vast impact our fellow Arab Americans have made to our state.”
The trailer for “Our Arab-American Story” was previewed Nov. 15 for an elite audience at the American Arab Chamber of Commerce’s 15th Annual Gala event. Leaders of the Arab business community and government officials were pleased with the trailer. According to the keynote speaker Seymour Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize winner and writer for The New Yorker, “That is a great feature! It is nice for the community, but it should be sent to the White House.”
The one-of-a-kind documentary shares the unique insights and perspectives of Arab Americans in a post-9/11 timeframe. In addition to filming area festivals, parades, events and landmarks, Visionalist Entertainment Productions filmed extensively in Lebanon, Jordan and Dubai, allowing the viewer to gain a new level of insight into the Arab American world – including its business, art, music, food and faith.
In Lebanon, Famie and the Visionalist film crew traveled with Lebanese American Dr. Marwan Abouljoud to see his parents during Ramadan. Dr. Abouljoud’s visit is a part of the documentary, as well as his work as director of the Henry Ford Transplant Institute, the nation’s busiest and most highly regarded transplant center. Dr. Abouljoud is among the nation’s top experts in living donor liver transplants and he welcomed the Visionalist film crew to witness and film his 26th successful transplant. Other people profiled in the documentary include 70-year-old John Sarweh, one of the best kanoun players in the U.S., whose handcrafted instruments take months to complete and sell for $5,000 and upwards; and 86-year-old Karim Bader, an oud musician who has played with some of the best musicians in the world in a globe-spanning career.
Bint Jebail Banquet Center Chef Habib Bazzi, Print Gallery owner Diane Shipley Decillis, Syrian American entrepreneur Ed Deeb, businessman Russell Ebeid, Judge Charlene Elder, local fashion designer Samaher Mohammed, Father George Shalhoub and The Arab American News publisher Osama Siblani, to name a few, also are featured.
“I feel fortunate that we can bring the wisdom and stories of some of Detroit’s elder immigrants to an audience who cares to watch and listen. Every interview I do touches me personally,” said Famie. “I believe cultural appreciation is vital to the continued growth of Detroit as the most diverse multi-ethnic city in the Midwest.”
“Our Arab American Story” will premier this Sunday at Flavors of the Arab World, an extravaganza of Arab food, fashion and entertainment at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi, Michigan. Toni Wisne Sabina and Steve Sabina of the Epoch Restaurant Group are hosting the special celebration. Chef Bazzi is providing the cuisine. Flavors of the Arab World takes place Dec. 2 at The Diamond Room at Rock Financial Showplace in Novi. The event begins at 5 p.m. and includes the premiere screening of the feature documentary. Tickets to the Flavors of the Arab World can be purchased by calling Visionalist Entertainment Productions at 248.869.0096. For more information about Visionalist Entertainment Productions or the “Our Story Of” documentary series visit www.ourstoryof.com.